Indian Wells: Svetlana Kuznetsova took another step forward in her comeback from a right knee injury when she beat Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-1, in Wednesday's opening round of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Kuznetsova, twice a Grand Slam champion and two times a runner-up in this $10 million event, did not play following Wimbledon last season due to the injury and the former world No. 2 was ranked No. 85 on January 6. She is No. 46 now, thanks in large part to quarter-final showings at Sydney, Australia and in the Australian Open, and can continue her climb with a win over No. 18 Jelena Jankovic in the second round.
"I haven't played her for years and it's going to be a very interesting match," said Kuznetsova, a Russian who is living in Dubai. "I remember that her down-the-line backhand was quite good and normally her movement was good, but I haven't seen her play for a while, so we'll see how it goes.
Svetlana Kuznetsova in action during her first-round win at Indian Wells on Wednesday. (AP Photo)
"I'm happy to be back on the court, this is the main thing. Every day I just try the best I can and things are coming along pretty well. I feel really balanced within myself, which is important. I actually have my dog here in Indian Wells, which is great! I'm a happy person, I do my favourite job and we're here in this nice place with a lovely view and great weather. I think it's everything we need!"
Vania King, 24, started well by winning a first-set tiebreaker from Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain, but the Spanish Olympian rolled through the next two sets for a 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-1 win. Lauren Davis, a 19-year-old Floridian, was a 6-2, 6-0 loser to 21-year-old Simona Halep of Romania.
Francesca Schiavone of Italy, the 2010 French Open champion, also moved into the second round with a 7-5, 6-1 win over countrywoman Flavia Pennetta and will take on No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova next.
Opening day was a mixed bag for the Americans in action. Wild card Maria Sanchez, a former University of Southern California star who is working with Chris Evert, was a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Olga Puchkova of Russia and Mallory Burdette, a 22-year-old qualifier, toppled another American, 38-year-old Jill Craybas, 6-3, 6-1. Vania King, 24, started well by winning a first-set tiebreaker from Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain, but the Spanish Olympian rolled through the next two sets for a 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-1 win.
Ksenia Pervak of Kazakhstan, No. 93, sprang the first upset of the tournament by toppling No. 42 Jie Zheng of China, 6-1, 6-2. Johanna Larson of Sweden, Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa and Olga Govortsova of Belarus were other first-day winners.
The women's first round continues and the men's first round gets underway on Thursday. All 32 seeded players in both the men's and women's fields have opening-round byes.
Victoria Azarenka and Novak Djokovic are the reigning champions. Djokovic, a perfect 12-0 this year, is seeking his third straight Indian Wells title.
Who do you think is the favourite in the women's draw to win the trophy?